China anti-graft watchdog visits Roche amid pharma crackdown

Thu May 22, 2014 6:39am EDT
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By Adam Jourdan and Caroline Copley

SHANGHAI/ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG ROG.VX said it had been visited by a unit of China's anti-trust regulator, apart of a widening crackdown on corruption and high prices in the country's pharmaceutical sector.

It was not immediately clear what was behind the visit.

Roche said its offices in the eastern city of Hangzhou had been visited by a unit of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC). The SAIC usually takes the lead in cases of bribery and corruption.

"We understand that a local government unit in Hangzhou visited Roche's offices on May 21, but the specific details are not yet clear. We will cooperate fully with the work of the relevant government department," Roche said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the local office of the SAIC told Reuters the visit was for a range of issues, but declined to elaborate. She said the office had yet to reach a conclusion about the issue.

Roche's shares were trading down 0.5 percent at 264.7 francs by 1019 GMT compared to a 0.4 percent weaker European healthcare sector index

Last week Chinese authorities charged executives at British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: Quote) over bribery and corruption, and legal and industry sources have said the crackdown on the pharmaceuticals sector is likely to intensify.

"More and more firms have been visited by the SAIC in the wake of the GSK case," John Huang, Shanghai-based managing partner at law firm MWE China, told Reuters.   Continued...

The logo of the Swiss drugmaker Roche is seen on a factory in Burgdorf near Bern November 17, 2010. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener